Why is America hooked on Romney

by May 15, 2013

Romney – Why is America hooked on this flawed candidate?

A review of recent polling data for the US presidential election shows that President Obama and Mitt Romney are in for a very tight race, with a few showing Romney ahead. The recent article by Tony Hamden of the Daily Mail in which he says “Obama should be on the rocks” because of the very slow pace of the economic recovery totally misses the point. The issue is why is America hooked on Romney, a flawed candidate. It is amazing that after recent revelations, – no I am not talking about his disastrous trip to Europe and Israel – why is the American public hooked on a man who wants to be president but does all he can to avoid paying tax, hides his money in Swiss bank accounts and does not see it fit to provide his tax returns to the electorate. Why are the 95% of Americans who will benefit from the extension of the Bush tax rebates, proposed by Obama and the Senate for those earning less than US$250,000, still keen on electing a man who opposes such a move? Why is the electorate enamoured with candidate who has not provided credible solutions on how to revive the economy. This polling data suggests that voters are moved by reasons that defy logic. To understand this situation we need to look at Obama’s record, Romney’s CV, a review of other leaders and the policies Romney is advocating.

The main reason why so many Americans are against Obama is the economy. A closer look at this reason reveals that the President has done a very good job having inherited the mess left by Bush. The economy has been growing and adding jobs for the last three years. This is a very good record particularly when compared to other major mature economies. Other economies, notably, the European Union, have had much worse growth and job creation, with most countries in Europe still in recession, experiencing anaemic economic growth and/or losing jobs. The economy would have done even better if it was not because of the obstructions of a Republican dominated congress who are doing everything they can to derail efforts by the President. Indeed, the IMF has recently noted that countries like the UK would need to do more for growth through investments in the infrastructure, a policy that Obama has been advocating for some time but has been thwarted by Republicans in congress that just want him to fail and/or are completely clueless on basic economics. One Economist has estimated that if the investment in the infrastructure that Obama has proposed had been implemented, it would have created 1.5 million jobs.

One other major criticism of the President is his health care reform. The President won on a mandate which included health care reform and he was only doing something he had promised. It is odd that the largest economy in the world should have fifty million of its citizens without health care, the only major country in the world in this situation. Romney has also been critical of Obama for abdicating America’s leadership role in the world. This is completely bonkers. Obama has done so much to rebuild America’s reputation in the world and the US is much more admired by allies and foes. He has ended one war, Iraq, and about to end another, Afghanistan. On his watch Osama Bin Laden was killed and Al Qaeda has been decimated.

So what does Romney offer in terms of his CV and policies he would adopt if elected. He claims that his success in business makes him a better candidate to solve America’s problems. A closer look at this record shows that he was very good at making profits for himself and his shareholders, but in that process he destroyed many jobs in America when his company, Bain took a leading role in outsourcing jobs to other countries. It must be noted that Bill Clinton, who had a much better record in terms of economic growth and job creation than Bush, did not have a business background. Bush had a business background, having worked in that sector for most of his life.

A review of other leaders also show that having had a successful business career does not mean Romney is qualified for the job. President Franklin Roosevelt who rescued America from the great depression and implemented policies that Obama has suggested, a position backed by many economists, including Nobel Lauret, Paul Krugman, was not a businessman, but a lawyer and politician. He took over from Herbert Hoover who had been a very successful businessman before he became President but was clueless in dealing with the depression. Silvio Berlusconi was a very successful businessman but his reign over the Italian economy for over a decade resulted in economic stagnation and was largely responsible for the mess that Italy is in now. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her predecessors in Germany who made the economy very competitive, resulting in very impressive economic and job growth, were not successful business people. China, which has seen the most impressive economic growth in the last 20 years, has not had successful businessmen at the helm. Indeed what these leaders did, making use of the best expertise and cobbling together a team of all stakeholders, goes against Romney’s new mantra, “very conservative” and his Republican cohorts in congress, for whom (extreme) ideology and avoidance of compromise takes precedence.

It must be noted that when Romney was governor of Massachusset, that state had one of the worst records in terms of economic growth and job creation. It is interesting that Romney does not tout his record on job and economic growth or his health care reform as governor. A notable exception was a recent comment by one of his staff in response to an advert by the Democrats about a woman who had died because of lack of health care. This aide noted that the woman would have benefited from Romney’s health care legislation in Massachusset if she had lived in that state, why then does Romney want to get rid of Obama’s health care legislation. He claims that if elected he will create 12 million jobs, highlighting his business credentials. This business “success” at Bain is noted for redundancies, job losses and outsourcing, policies that benefited a handful of shareholder but can hardly be cited as relevant to job creation.

So given the fact that his CV is not particularly relevant to the job he wants, or makes him a better candidate than Obama, what can be said of policies Romney is advocating? Romney has not said much about this with the focus of his attack being that Obama’s policies have failed without giving much detail about alternatives he will pursue. He has stated that he will reduce taxes and free businesses from unnecessary government regulations. Well, Bush reduced taxes but his record on economic growth and job creation was worse than Clinton’s reign when taxes were higher. Bush’s tax cuts together with the wars he started were responsible for the US government’s budget deficit after inheriting a surplus from Clinton.

Romney’s claims that he will reduce red tape and government restrictions on business are spurious. There is no evidence that Obama’s policies have been unduly onerous on businesses, it is not as if he has come up with a raft of useless regulations to burden businesses unnecessarily. Indeed, it could be said that the lack of and/or ineffective regulations largely caused the gulf oil spill and the recession. Obama has rightly introduced some regulations (some say it does not go far enough) on the banking sector, which Romney will dismantle, to avoid the casino banking practices that caused the most severe recession in the world for eighty years. Romney has said he will repeal the health care reform. Apart from this being rather rich for him, since he initiated such a system as Governor of Massachusset, that most people in that state are very happy with, it will be sad day for the world’s largest economy. Romney has said he will do all he can to reinstate American dominance in the world and by this he does not mean to use the soft power approach that Obama has been using. He will revert to the Bush approach, brute force. On his recent visit to Israel, he was sabre rattling and promised to give Israel a blank cheque regarding military actions that it may decide to take against Iran. He will not try to win friends and build consensus, but rather just tell everybody what America wants, with no regard to the views and interests of allies.

So why is the American electorate hooked on this very flawed candidate. Someone who does not really show allegiance to his country, otherwise he would not have been hiding his money in Swiss bank accounts and shipping jobs overseas. A candidate whose CV does not make him particularly qualified for the position he covets, who blows with the wind; from a moderate to being “very conservative”; from an advocate of health reform to a strong opponent of a scheme that he introduced as governor. Why are they hooked on someone who is advocating policies that would have no positive effect on the economy but rather, like his Republican predecessor, Bush, reward his rich supporters and add to the budget deficit? Why are they willing to support someone whose first foray into the international scene results in insults to one of the country’s oldest and strongest ally, the UK? It beggars belief that this guy is even close to Obama in the polls.

An indication of why the polls defy logic relates to Obama’s position among white working class males, workers without a college degree, who overwhelmingly prefer Romney. These are the people who have borne the brunt of the pain when Romney’s Bain Corporation took a leading roll in outsourcing jobs to China and other low cost bases. They are likely to loose out in a big way if Romney wins and implements his tax reform, which a recent report by a reputable think tank, The Tax Policy Centre, has stated would result in gains for top income people like Romney but significant losses for low and middle income people. They are likely to be killed in wars that Romney may start going by his sabre rattling and blank cheque to Israel, if that country decides to cash that cheque and America is drawn into another war. They are likely to benefit from Obama’s health care reform that Romney has vowed to dismantle. They are likely to benefit greatly from investment in the infrastructure that Obama has proposed. Why then do they support a man whose policies are very much against their interests? This is the million dollar question and logic seems to play no part in this situation.

J Boima Rogers
Media and Event Management Oxford